Celtics-Lakers Live: Paul Pierce Leads Teamwide Effort as Celts Trounce Rivals From Out West

Kobe Bryant, Paul PierceFinal, Celtics 116-95: If this weekend’s snowstorm turns out to end western civilization as we know it, the Celtics gave their fans a nice last look at professional basketball. With Paul Pierce scoring 24 points, Jeff Green posting a season high in points, Chris Wilcox achieving his season best in rebounds and Fab Melo recording his first points in the NBA, it was a good night to be wearing green.

Kevin Garnett had only 15 points and five rebounds, but he was totally in the head of Dwight Howard, who played 28 ineffective minutes with a torn labrum. Green had 19 points, Wilcox nabbed nine boards and the Celtics breezed to their sixth straight win.

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 27 points. No other Los Angeles starter reached double figures in scoring.

Fourth quarter, 2:12, Celtics 109-86: There is lots to celebrate here for Celtics fans. The latest is Green matching his season-high with 19 points, the third time this season he has reached that total.

It’s Gino Time, to Garnett’s delight. What a way to send these fans into Snowmageddon.

Fourth quarter, 5:07, Celtics 105-80: It took almost 43 minutes of game action, but Terry finally missed a shot. He took a baseline jumper and appeared to get hit by Howard on the release, but there was no call. The shot caught side rim and made Terry 5-for-6 from the field, with 13 points.

Terry spent a little too long arguing with the official, though, which left Jodie Meeks open for a three at the other end. Meeks’ shot cut Boston’s deficit to only 25 points, so we are in a real nailbiter here.

Terry later managed to foul out Howard, who leaves after 28 underwhelming minutes.

Fourth quarter, 8:56, Celtics 99-71: Boston fans have called for their team to get blown up in the wake of two serious season-ending injuries, but the Lakers may have beaten them to the punch. The Lake Show looks like it has already been blown up.

Green added a tough running layup and a pair of free throws to tack onto the Celtics’ lead, and the Lakers need to talk it over. Already. Just four minutes after they presumably talked things over between quarters.

End of third quarter, Celtics 95-69: Goodnight, L.A.

Not even the Celtics should be able to blow this lead. Every piece of the Celtics’ attack was clicking, with stellar defensive plays leading to run-out dunks for Green or quick turnovers in the backcourt leading to easy layups for Bradley. Pierce’s 3-pointer in secondary transition brought the Celtics fans in the crowd to their feet, giving the Celtics their largest lead of the game at 26 points.

Third quarter, 2:49, Celtics 81-66: For a while there, Pierce and Bryant were having an old-fashioned scorer’s duel. The problem with that, from the Lakers’ perspective, was that the Celtics already held a comfortable lead, so trading baskets is not the way to come back.

Third quarter, 5:52, Celtics 70-57: Lee is getting taken through the Kobe blender. The Celtics guard is doing an admirable job defending Bryant, who is simply hitting some impossible shots. Bryant’s last, a short-armed straightaway jumper, somehow bounced off the glass and in. Lee could only shake his head.

While Bryant works for those buckets, though, the Celtics are having just as much success on their own offensive end. Bryant has eight of L.A.’s 13 points in the third quarter, but the Celtics have a dozen to keep their double-digit lead intact.

Halftime, Celtics 58-44: All right, let’s just come right out and say it.

The Lakers are boring to watch.

Really, is there any more star-studded team that provides less fan enjoyment? Their style of play is terrible. Through two quarters, they are shooting 38 percent from the floor, and Howard has just five points. Bryant is playing another stellar game, putting up 14 points on “just” 10 shots and grabbing seven boards. But there is nobody else in Forum blue and gold that I would pay to see play.

That said, a second-half comeback is not out of the question, because this is the Celtics they are playing. Pierce and Green are the first two Celtics in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively, but Pierce is doing his damage in his usual myriad ways. Green has taken advantage of a matchup with Antawn Jamison, a shaky defender, to get to the cup whenever he wants.

Second quarter, 2:01, Celtics 55-40: Rivers is doing a few things that are different from what he has done since Rajon Rondo’s injury. For one, Bradley and Terry are playing together a bit more in this game. Rivers has mostly gone with a Bradley-Lee or Terry-Barbosa backcourt, not mixing the two.

Also, he has Garnett and Wilcox playing together on the front line. That is an interesting pairing, and it paid dividends when Garnett drew a double-team and dished to Wilcox for a jam. Like we have said many times, there is more than one way to play basketball, with or without Rondo.

Second quarter, 5:41, Celtics 43-34: Garnett has become the 16th player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points, and he did it, fittingly, on a turnaround jump shot.

Garnett has been an offensive machine so far, affecting the Celtics’ scoring ability far beyond his six points. He also has three assists and numerous “hockey” assists, setting up a teammate to make the pass that leads to a basket.

On the ensuing dead ball, the video board at the TD Garden noted Garnett’s accomplishment, and he acknowledged the ovation from the crowd by standing and waving his hand.

Second quarter, 10:26, Celtics 33-25: No sooner did Garnett return to the game then he started to give Howard work. Garnett opened the second frame with a jumper, then beat the Lakers big man to an offensive rebound and scored the one-handed jumper over Howard’s outstretched arm.

The Celtics have opened up their largest lead of the game at eight points.

End of first quarter, Celtics 27-23: After picking up two early fouls, Garnett was forced to head to the bench just two minutes into the action. But the Lakers failed to capitalize.

Part of that had to do with Howard’s curious inability to make the most of his matchup with Jason Collins or Chris Wilcox. Another was the efforts of Pierce, who was 5-for-10 from the field and leads all scorers with 10 points. Everybody taller than 6-foot-9 is in foul trouble for the Celtics — Garnett has two, Wilcox has two, Collins has three — but they are playing an even 14-all on the glass and hold an 18-6 advantage in points in the paint.

First quarter, 2:08, Celtics 23-20: The precipitous fall of Howard’s free throw accuracy has been stunning to watch. Many fans might not remember that Howard was a decent foul shooter when he entered the league. He shot 67 percent from the charity stripe as a rookie, but it has only gotten worse since.

Howard is shooting 49.6 percent from the line this year, just half a percentage point from matching his career-worst 49.1 percent from last year. Keeping to form, he is just 1-for-4 from the line in this one.

First quarter, 5:20, Celtics 14-11: These teams might not be the world-beaters they have been in matchups past, but Pierce definitely knows this is still Lakers-Celtics. Pierce has already taken six shots (his teammates have taken nine) and has a game-high six points. He is attacking Metta World Peace and making it clear he wants to make a statement against the Celtics’ traditional rival.

Howard indeed started and was aggressive early, but he has fallen into a malaise since. He is 2-for-5 from the field and missed a layup badly, firing it high off the backboard and drawing no iron.

7:58 p.m.: Howard was introduced with the starters, so unless things change in the next few minutes — remember, he said he was a “GAME-TIME decision,” not a “few minutes before game-time decision” — anything can happen.

7:46 p.m.: Howard is on the floor, stretching and shooting around as though he is trying to play. He does not appear to be wearing a uniform top, though, just a compression shirt and game shorts.

7:25 p.m.: About an hour before game time, Howard was not going to jump the gun on the “game-time” decision about whether he will play.

“It’s a GAME-TIME decision,” Howard told a reporter who asked if he plans to play.

By Howard’s logic, can we assume that everybody will come out for tip-off, and right before the ball goes up, he’ll yell “HOLD IT! I’m gonna play!” and come running out to center court? So that should be fun.

Doc Rivers did not put together two game plans to prepare for Howard playing and not playing. Rivers said “he’s playing,” in addressing reporters before the game, but he was merely referring to the Celtics’ preparations for the game. They plan on Howard suiting up, and if he does not, they will count their blessings.

Lakers
Dwight Howard
Earl Clark
Metta World Peace
Kobe Bryant
Steve Nash

Celtics
Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Paul Pierce
Courtney Lee
Avery Bradley

2:55 p.m.: Bryant might be a little ticked if he sees Howard sitting out in street clothes, but there is one guy Bryant would not mind seeing courtside. The Lakers star told reporters he hoped Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski makes an appearance, since Bryant has a respect for most things Patriots.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick even offered words of encouragement for Bryant after the Lakers’ 2008 NBA Finals loss to the Celtics, Bryant told ESPN.com. According to the Mamba, Belichick said he knew what it was like to lose the big one, since the Patriots had recently lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Don’t worry. Bryant is far from a Pats fan. The Philadelphia native insists he is an Eagles fan, for better or worse.

2:03 p.m.: Say this much for the Lakers: They are seldom boring. Kobe Bryant reportedly shot down rumors that he has pressured Dwight Howard to play with a torn labrum at the team shootaround on Thursday morning. At the same time, Howard stated that he would not “jeopardize his career” for the sake of playing a few games in the here and now.

The Lakers’ big man is a game-time decision against the Celtics.

If Howard cannot go, keep an eye on Earl Clark. The 25-year-0ld big man out of Louisville has upped his production as Howard and Pau Gasol have battled injuries and ineffectiveness. Clark averaged 10.3 points and 8.4 rebounds in January, and he has been even better this month. In three February games, Clark is averaging a double-double of 14.7 points and 10.7 rebounds while hitting more than half his field goal attempts.

8 a.m. ET: Somewhere deep down, a couple of proud teams have rediscovered what has made them champions in the past.

This season has been a comedy of errors for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers (23-26), who sit outside the playoff picture at 10th place in the Western Conference entering Thursday. The news got even rougher for them on Wednesday, when an MRI revealed that the pain in Pau Gasol’s right foot was the result of a torn planta fascia and that the veteran big man will miss at least six weeks. Gasol will join Dwight Howard, who is battling back and shoulder pain, on the sideline.

The bad news comes just as the Lakers were starting to hit their stride. They come to Boston on Thursday having won six of their last seven games, making this an unlikely clash of suddenly streaking squads. The Celtics (25-23) have won five straight after Wednesday’s victory in Toronto, getting key contributions from unlikely sources like Leandro Barbosa.

Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m.

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